It’s an unfortunate fact of life: Eating begets leftovers. Proper food storage and limiting waste is a challenge for every household. When tonight’s plant-based dinner is so satisfying that you’ve just got to enjoy the leftovers tomorrow (or freeze them for next month), what’s an eco-conscious person to do?
Limiting plastic is an obvious answer. But while banishing plastic from our households is a worthy goal, it’s more attainable in theory than in practice. Here are some alternatives we like for storage in the pantry, the freezer, and the fridge:
Glass storage containers. Safer for the environment than plastic, glass also lasts much longer. Some containers are refrigerator-only, while others can cross over to the freezer as well. Look for containers that are are both oven- and freezer-safe and that have glass, not plastic, lids.
Canning jars. Think traditional Mason canning jars made of glass. These adorable receptacles are perfect for fridge and freezer. If you want to put your canning jars in the freezer, “be sure to choose the wide-mouth, dual-purpose jars that are for freezing and canning,” says the Alabama Cooperative Extension System in “The Dos and Don’ts of Freezing Foods.” “These jars are specially made to withstand freezing and boiling temperatures.”
Weck jars. Sealed with a rubber ring between the glass jar and lid and held with a stainless steel clip, weck jars are another type of canning jar that’s starting to gain traction in the U.S. Just fill, clip, and store.
Stainless steel. Stainless-steel airtight containers of all sizes are ideal for both leftovers and lunchboxes. Glass lids with steel containers are available as well. And don’t forget water bottles, like the steel ones offered by Kleen Kanteen (just make sure that if they’re lined, it’s with BPA-free plastic).
Freezer wrap. This eco-conscious version of specially-formulated freezer wrap is known as “freezer paper” or “freezer aluminum foil.” Make sure your wrap is marked as freezer-appropriate.
Muffin tins. Kris Bordessa of the website Attainable Sustainable, which offers tips and tricks on developing and maintaining a more sustainable lifestyle, endorses the storage methods already mentioned but also has another, more creative solution for freezing storable food: muffin tins. “If I want to freeze items in small portions, I’ll fill muffin tins and freeze them. Once frozen, I can pop them out and wrap in wax paper and foil.”
Recycled milk cartons. Bordessa also freezes homemade soups and stocks in rinsed and recycled half-gallon milk cartons, with this caveat: “Just make sure you have some freezer tape on hand to seal the containers.”
Recycled plastic containers. If you already have some Earth Balance tubs or other plastic containers in your house, save them instead of recycling them. Reusing them for food storage is a great way to keep leftovers fresh while still being sustainable.